Feb 21, 2010

A Century Turns - A Book Review

I was eager to read the latest book I received to review for my blog. A Century Turns: New Hopes, New Fears by William Bennett is a fair, informative, and sometimes encouraging look at the political and global events of the years 1998-2008. This book was a far departure from my usual literary palette. Aside from a couple of non-fiction writers, most of my reading time is spent on books about theology, church work, and leadership. However, I have long been an admirer of Bill Bennett and both his writings as well as his political stances. Bennett is a strong conservative and has been heavily aligned with Republican leaders and causes for many years. However, his political ties have never hindered him from both offering strong opinions as well as voicing strong opposition to policies he disagrees with. This has made him a well-respected figure in Washington on both sides of the aisle.

A Century Turns is a follow-up to Bennett's previous works, America: The Last Best Hope volumes 1 and 2. I have not read those books. Bennett explains that after their publication and embrace by many, he was encouraged to write a book about the events leading up to the turn of the century. I am a product of most of the events that he writes about. In 1998, I was a 20-year old, not well-informed, college student who was being asked to vote in his first significant presidential election. The list of events over the last 20 years described by Bennett are staggering: the fall of communism, the quick war to free Kuwait from Iraq, the bombing of the World Trade Center, the election of two liberal presidents - Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the election of a father and a son - George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, 9/11, the war in Afghanistan, the controversy of the 2000 presidential election, "hanging chads", the war and fall of Iraq, the arrest and execution of Saddam Hussein. These events, and dozens more, have all occurred and radically shaped our world in the last 20 years.

Bill Bennett does an excellent job of walking through the events that have occurred over this 20-year time span and their political implications. While not backing away from his strong conservatism, he does a fair job of giving the good and the bad of both the Democratic and Republican parties. He is not afraid to open up the issues and reveal much of what the "mainstream media" has under or mis-reported over the last few years. In his asterisk notes he usually adds his commentary on how he advised a certain president or how he debated liberals on television about these events. Bennett primary purpose is not to get the reader to agree with him politically. His primary purpose is to show how America has long been a light and beacon of freedom and how this has been shown or hidden in the last 20 years. Bennett is first and foremost an American and a patriot. He has a huge grasp on American history and the constitution.

If you like history, especially the kind that hasn't been revised by today's liberal press, this is a great book. If you are like me, you will read this and find yourself reminiscing as you think about where you were when these moments were taking place. I didn't realize at the time how significant the election of a charming Southern Governor with a checkered moral past would be at the time. It didn't seem imaginable after Bush's soaring popularity in the post 9/11 events would diminish and have him leave office as one of the most unpopular presidents (according to so-called "approval ratings" and because of the heavily biased attacks of the media). It was unthinkable when Jesse Jackson ran for president in 1998 that 20 years later, a man with African-American background would be elected and sworn in. Reading through the pages of A Century Turns is a gentle reminder that while history is prologue, the making of it occurs in everyday events that are never insignificant.

This book was graciously provided for review by Thomas Nelson books as part of their Booksneeze.com program.